Light rain predicted for Merced

A weak storm making its way out of the mountains is expected to sprinkle Merced with its first measurable precipitation of the year before making its way south, according to forecasts.

Between 5 and 10 inches of snow is expected above 7,000 feet, particularly near Yosemite National Park, while the storm passes today, according to meteorologist Jim Andersen of the National Weather Service in Hanford.

Andersen said there’s a 40 percent chance of rain today through Friday morning until about 2 a.m. “It’s going to be very light rain showers,” he said. “We’re not expecting too much accumulation with this.”

Merced could get about one-tenth of an inch of rain to add to its dismal 1.02 inches so far this season. An average year would have brought 6.26 inches of precipitation by now.

Andersen said temperatures could drop as many as 10 degrees, to the high 50s. Wednesday’s high was around 68 degrees in Merced.

Andersen said there’s a 20 percent chance scattered showers could continue until about 2 p.m. Friday. The rest of the days in the seven-day forecast are expected to be dry.

“The chances (for rain) drop off dramatically once the main rain comes through,” he said.

Many in agriculturally rich Merced County are hoping for wet weather in the next few months, before the rainy season passes entirely.

It’s been nearly two weeks since Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in California and directed state officials to take all necessary action to prepare and assist farmers and communities economically affected by dry conditions. The California Department of Public Health announced this week it has offered support to 17 rural communities with water sources vulnerable to running dry within 100 days.

“As the severe drought continues, we’re working with impacted communities to identify alternative water sources and additional resources,” Director Dr. Ron Chapman said, in a news release.

The rural water systems serve communities as small as 39 people and as large as 11,000. The only community on the list in this area is Whispering Pines Apartments, a Mariposa County apartment complex whose water is regulated by the state. The next closest communities are in Fresno and Madera counties.

Back in Merced County, ranchers are waiting for water with bated breath.

A sizable portion of the grass-growing season has passed, and that means ranchers are having to buy more expensive feed for their animals. If rain comes next month, ranchers may be able to salvage some of the growing season.

On the other side of the agriculture industry are growers who are dependent on the San Luis Reservoir and Lake McClure, which are low after three dry years.

The northern Sierra snowpack is 5 percent of normal, according to measurements by the California Department of Water Resources. The monthly snow survey is intended to measure snow depth and water content in a region crucial to statewide water supplies.

The National Weather Service reminds drivers to be careful when the rain falls, because dirt and oils have built up and roads will become slick.